Hotels Give Up Easy Money Restricting Award Availability Like It’s The Before Times

I’ve written about hotels that play games with their award inventory. And pushing on various chains I’ve often gotten them to open up award space at hotels that are trying to block members from redeeming their points.

One of the more famous examples of a recalcitrant property I’ve made no progress with, however, is the Andaz Maui. They’ve taken a very limited subset of rooms and called them standard rooms, available for award redemption. But they’ve taken things a step farther.

  • They only offer standard rooms for sale on 3 night stays, or depending on the season sometimes 6-night stays or a slightly different combination of nights.

  • They do not offer this room type for sale, either, on shorter stays or longer stays.

  • And since the rooms only have to be available on points when they’re available for cash, the hotel stays within the chain’s rules for award night availability.

Andaz Maui

Here’s the really interesting thing, and I mean this genuinely. With hotels around the world hurting, and occupancy down and recovery stalled, you’d think a hotel would want revenue anywhere it can get it.

When members redeem points, the hotel chain pays the hotel for the room the guest is using. It’s a discounted rate, to be sure, but the discount for this year (since reimbursements were already set for this year before the pandemic) is actually not as much as it usually is compared to the way prices have fallen generally.

You would expect hotels to increase their award availability whenever they do not expect to be sold out, to generate revenue for those rooms from the loyalty program. Award guests are paying guests, and even discounted guests help cover a property’s expensive.

So I was really surprised that this far into the pandemic, and with Hawaii mere days away from ‘re-opening’ to tourism, that the Andaz Maui still has its availability restrictions in place.

You can find award rooms on a 3-night stay:

Extend it to a 4 night stay, or search instead using these same dates for just a 2 night stay, and reward night availability disappears. The hotel is playing the same games they did in the Before Times.

It seems that when hotels cut back on personnel to save costs, and leave their strategies in place, there’s no one around to think creatively about where the next dollar might come from. Right now loyalty programs can be saviors for a property, delivering more guests, filling rooms, and bringing cash the hotel wouldn’t see – and patrons who might be reluctant to spend cash in the current environment, too.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. In Christmas time this year, they have 10+ minimum day limitation for award reservation. They are just insane. I have never stayed at Andaz Maui but I don’t think I’d like to give them my business.

  2. Example of what the hotel receives from the parent company is a stay I had at a Holiday Hotel in Phoenix. It was spring baseball season and cash rates were outrageous. Point stays were 20K per night. I was shown the rate they received from IHG. It was close to $200 per night. Not to bad of a income for a room at a Holiday Inn. And, I was happy to have points and enjoy baseball.

  3. Gary, I thought the Andaz Maui was owned, or at least managed, by Hyatt. You have contacts at Hyatt. Why haven’t you gotten responses from the suits at Hyatt? If you have, what is Hyatt corporate’s response?

  4. @Joseph N – if memory serves Hyatt sold its stake in the hotel, but that’s easy to check in their SEC filings. I’ve pushed Hyatt in the past and they’ve come back claiming the hotel technically complies with program rules.

  5. My theory: the hotel has found a way to self-justify their stupid limitations on awards.

    It’s a form of self deception. Or what’s some call “reality distortion”.

    Andaz’ reasoning: hey, people will want to travel, we are in a prime location, we have the market by the balls!

    The ability for a business to self deceive is astounding.

    And quite amazing to watch.

  6. @Mrlasssen That reimbursement is dependent on that night’s occupancy. I had a hotel show me the reimbursement over several days. On the normal nights IHG paid $30/night + tax. On the (nearly) full nights, the hotel got whatever was that night’s retail going rate.

    On occupancy, Phoenix is an oddball because it goes 9 months of the year with half full hotels, then 3 months with everything sold out.

  7. So this property clearly does not want award stays. Even when their property is booked at +90%.
    So why does anybody stay here?

  8. I was looking at Marriotts in Boca Raton. The first week in December, one of the slowest travel weeks of the year normally, Marriott is claiming every day except Sunday is Peak and Sunday is Standard. Meanwhile, the 2 Category 5 hotels are selling rooms for under $130. It isn’t just Hyatt that hasn’t figured out what is going on.

  9. This is another variant of the adage “when your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail’
    There is a new paradigm, but those making the decisions either cannot recognize it or understand it, so they keep applying the old rules on how to operate.
    Fresh thinking and new strategies are needed to operate in this new environment and it seems likely management at this property do not have it.

  10. And yet you give them free PR. I know you think you may be shaming them, and to the points people you may be, but to non-points people, they don’t care. Clearly the hotel is doing well enough to stay in business. Not saying I would do this if I was the hotel but I don’t think you are accomplishing anything here.

  11. Not every hotel property is hurting in the same way. I have observed that visitors who pay with award nights spend very differently than people who pay full tariff.

    The bottom line performance of the property may be better with 60% occupancy of full tariff customers than 90% occupancy of mainly award customers, since its the extra services where the highest margins can be found.

    My observation is that people who are big spenders when the company is paying (and generating personal points) are often cheapskates when it is their turn to pay. (“OK, honey, we paid nothing for the room, so lets skip that $100 a head dining room and go on down to the burger shack by the public beach.”) I know there are exceptions to this but it happens too often to ignore.

    Also, given that we are in the middle of a pandemic, the property may be struggling to keep a fully trained staff available to serve their high end customers. While there may be bodies available off the street, poorly trained staff who don’t understand the luxury hotel business can quickly devalue the brand. If you are like me, you go first to the negative ratings on a property and ignore the gushing praise.

    In the end it is a matter of comparing ALL of the marginal costs against ALL of the marginal revenues. It can be a complicated equation. For some it works to release more rooms, for others not so much. Some hotel operators may be idiots but they don’t last long in this business.

  12. Hey @NumbersGuy, are you calling us travel points enthusiasts deadbeats?

    Guilty as charged. Although I did rent bikes from the Munich Hilton once.

  13. Cheapskates and deadbeats are all fine people. I meet many of these fine people at Motel6.

  14. They may have reduced staff and supply inventory to the point they can’t accommodate many customers, or perhaps at their current occupancy rate the Hyatt reimbursement is still lower than the cost of having the room occupied. I know we were at a couple of resorts this summer and the availability of some of the premium (read: high margin) services were closed. It rarely makes sense to voluntarily lose money although I do agree that place has to have high fixed expenses and I would have thought every little bit would have helped.

  15. I was quite shocked to find they’re still doing this. That said, I’m happy to redeem for a six night stay in 2022 (2, 3-night stays).

    3.4 cents per point value too.

  16. @Gary, looks like the Park Hyatt Aviara is playing room category games so that there is no award availability at all. Do you know if Hyatt can do anything about it?

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